The JHub welcomes Gefiltefest, its newest organisation which shares an office space right next to Leonie and the JVN Team. Being fans of (1) amazing local Jewish organisations, and (2) food, we grabbed Michael Leventhal for quick chat just as he stepped into the building.
Gefiltefest? Sounds interesting! What’s it all about?
We try to answer crucial questions about Jewish identity and culture, through the prism of culinary history. You can tell, for example, a huge amount about Jewish social history by examining the way particular products like aubergines have been used in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. People also do not know where food comes from so we want to educate them about fair trade, organic products and food in general.
We want to educate and entertain the Jewish and wider community about food and the environment. We raise money for food related charities, such as Gift and Leket Israel, which redistribute food to the needy. We also donate food to people. The general public does not realise how much food is wasted so we would like to educate people and motivate them to redistribute food.
The education aspect is conveyed during events. We organise an annual food festival (the next one will take place on Sunday 22nd May 2011, more about this later). These fun fair trade days are the perfect outings for food lovers and the whole family!
Judaism teaches us about being mindful and respectful of what we consume, and we want to reiterate such values in our work. Food brings gap within communities, it allows people to come together regardless of their religious affiliation. You build relationship that goes beyond communities through food.
How did you get involved with Gefiltefest?
It happened by accident. Two years ago, I won a competition where the prize was a cooking lesson given by a chef. I was never that interested in cooking, but I am fascinated in the historical and social aspect of food. The first Gefiltefest took place last October. We had 30 speakers and 250 participants. Thrilled by this immense success, we expect even more people to attend this year’s event.
We set up Gefiltefest last August, so it has been 10 months now.
How many volunteers are working with you?
I work with a couple of friends who are helping me. But we still need more people to volunteer. Food lovers, please get in touch!
What volunteering opportunities can you offer?
You can help us before the event by spreading the word about our organization on social medium like facebook and twitter; or by distributing flyers. If you have an interested in advertising, PR, marketing, and have good communications and writing skills, we want to hear from you!
On the day of the event, we welcome people for a variety of missions: helping run sessions smoothly, gathering fresh Kosher bakers, products from setting up the venue, selling raffle tickets, looking after presenters. Depending on how much time volunteers will commit, we can offer a free meal from one of the caterers, the delicious Spice Caravan.
After Gefiltefest, there’s a huge amount of follow-up work to be done on the festival and on other projects – we need people to help with organizing and researching the Rabbi Relay Ride from Land’s End to John o’ Groats, a charitable edition of the Birkhat Hamazon and other projects.
What is the best part of your day?
Turning my phone and computer off during Shabbat to be honest! We live such hectic lives that it is nice not to be connected to the outside world for a day or so. I am also really looking forwards getting the charity started in its new location. I strongly believe Gefiltefest has a real potential for expansion because, truth be told, Jews love food. How do you bring Jews together? Through food of course! Glorious food!
What events have you got planned for 2011?
Our main event will take place Sunday 22 May 2011 at the London Jewish Cultural Centre, Ivy House, located on North End Road (Golders Green station). On the day itself, people will be able to choose from a smorgasboard of lectures, demonstrations, tastings and workshops, all on a theme of Judaism and food. For every hour slot of the day there will be six or seven sessions to pick from, with a great range of cooks, authors, Rabbis, educators and enthusiasts.
What’s on the menu of this fantastic day? Edible Jewish Art with artist Rebecca Feiner ; Alexei Charkham on how to grow your own vegetables & Kevin Sefton on urban bee-keeping ; Much Ado About Noshing: Food in Jewish Poetry with Alastair Falk just to name a few. We will also be holding our first Gefilterfest Food Award, judged by Made in Camden’s head chef Josh Katz, Elizabeth Carter of the Good Food Guide and other experts.
For more information, and to book your ticket, please log on to our website http://www.gefiltefest.com/ or http://www.ljcc.org.uk/events/1661-gefiltefest-at-ivy-house.html
We will organize in June our Rabbi Relay Race from Land’s End to John o’ Groats to raise £100,000.
We are also planning to publish a charitable Birkhat Hamazon - from which all the profits will go to food-related charities – and we are working on a Kosher Masterchef for later in 2011. More information will be provided in due course on our website concerning these events.
How has JVN helped you work with volunteers?
JVN has found 4 wonderful volunteers for us last year so we rely on its services to find the perfect person. Now that we have moved to the JHub and are sharing our office space, it will be much easier and quicker to work together. I am really looking forwards developing the charity and working together with JVN.
How can we contact you?